From Hakai Magazine, a fascinating tale of discovery featuring UNT Biology professor Dr. Jaime Jiménez:
In 2020, on a rocky hillside overlooking the vast swell of the Pacific Ocean near the Chilean port city of Antofagasta, a local man out walking his dog stumbled upon the sun-bleached skull of a small mammal. Curious, he pocketed it and brought it to the attention of researchers Alejandro Peñaloza and Jaime Jiménez. The scientists were shocked. The skull belonged to a long-tailed chinchilla, a species typically found deep within the Chilean Andes Mountains. As far as scientists knew, chinchillas had never inhabited the coast.
"I couldn't believe it at first," says Jiménez, a researcher at the University of North Texas who has studied chinchilla ecology for over 30 years. "There were no past records of chinchillas in the area, and never on the coast, so it just didn't make any sense."
The excited researchers dug into the mystery. They quickly discovered a plethora of pint-sized paw prints in the sand and rodent scat strewn among the boulders, but what they really wanted was photographic evidence. The researchers baited camera traps with apple slices and, to their delight, captured dozens of images of the rodents. It was only when the scientists checked the cameras that they realized just how close they'd come to seeing the chinchillas--one image was snapped just 11 minutes after they'd left.
Read the full story at Hakai Magazine: https://hakaimagazine.com/news/in-chile-an-unknown-coastal-chinchilla/